Saturday, September 27, 2014

Spooky Thing Happened

This is one of my stories that I have no explanation for, just one of those spooky things that happens at times to almost everyone.

It was after Chuck passed away and I was living in the woods alone, I always kept my porch light on at night and I had a pit bull named Thor that was an excellent watch dog. He would always bark if someone came.

I was watching TV and I heard him snarling, and growling and then he started barking. I got up and opened the door and he was stretched out as far as he could on the rope I kept him tied with at night, he was raising hell and all the hackles on his back standing straight up. I looked in the direction he was facing.

Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou
It was a bright moonlight night and standing in the eve of the back porch stood a big man. He was dressed like a cowboy. He was wearing a black hat with silver broaches around the band, like the one Lee Marvin wore in Cat Ballou.

Silver Boots
He was also wearing silver cowboy boots, I could see the gleam of them in the moonlight. His right side was toward me. 

He was wearing a long black duster. The shadow of the hat brim kept me from seeing his face clearly.
A Cowboy in a Black Duster
I was shocked and I started to ask him who he is and what did he want, and then I thought to myself, you idiot, what are you doing? 

He is a stranger and you have no idea what his intentions are. I closed and locked the door. I slipped into my bedroom and got my loaded shotgun that I kept beside my bed.

I eased into my bathroom and slowly opened the window, feeling I was in a better position to ask him who he is and what he wanted. There was no one there. And by this time the dog had hushed.

I began feeling foolish and would have talked myself into thinking it was just wild imagination, but if I had imagined it, why would the
dog have raised such a ruckus?

Sleep did not come easy for me that night I was jittery and could not make my mind shut down. Eventually sleep came. The next morning I made my coffee and went out on the front porch to drink it.

Immediately I began thinking about last night, so I got up and walked around the house to where the cowboy had been standing, just knowing I would find those boot prints and I could track him back to where he came in from. Only one dirt road in about a quarter mile.

I was totally amazed, there were no boot prints in the sand, so it left me scratching my head. I could believe that it was just my imagination except for Thor’s reaction.

I have thought about it many times since, but have never figured it out. I choose to believe it was an angel, and yes they do sometimes appear as a cowboy.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Saved By The Book

We had moved out to Big Coppitt Key in 1965.  Chuck had begun to have problems with his equilibrium when he was still at Fleming Key. He went to the dispensary one night and the Dr. on duty told him, "I can’t diagnose you with Vertigo, but I am sure that is your problem.

My father had it and I am very familiar with it. The only way you can be diagnosed with this is to eliminate everything that can cause dizziness. You need to learn how to rehabilitate yourself now in the way you move and do things."

By this time he had about 18 years in the Navy, and in his entire Navy career he’d had only one Captain’s Mass; which was for being late, but he was never late again, and he always went by the book from that day forward.

His marks were always 4.0 across the board during all this time. When he was promoted to Chief Petty Officer he was entitled to wear gold hash marks on his sleeve because of his outstanding record. He was called a “Fine Sailor”.

Still at Fleming Key, the Captain of U S Naval Air station came out one morning and told Chuck he wanted him to put the Jet boat in the water, Chuck said, "Sir I don’t have anything to do that with except the Cherry picker, and I don’t think the pad eye will hold."

I am not sure what a Cherry picker is, I just know it is a piece of heavy equipment that you move heavy loads with.

Again the Captain stated he wanted the Jet boat (a shallow water rescue vessel) in the water. Chuck said, "Sir you know that I have submitted three chits (formal requests) to have the pad eye tested and they were denied, and I do not think it will hold up."

The Captain said, "Chief Haven, if I give you a direct order to put that Jet boat in the water, you will obey the order, won’t you?"

Chuck, "Yes Sir I most certainly will and I would like you to put that order in writing."

He came home for lunch, and went back to work at 1:30 p m. As soon as he returned to work he hooked onto the Jet boat with the Cherry picker and as they swung the boat out over the dock, the pad eye tore out and the boat fell, it hit the dock and split the boat down the side. 

She would be out of commission till repairs could be made. He had to call and report this to the Captain, and by 1:50 p m he was relieved of duty at Fleming Key and transferred back to Boca Chica Naval Air Station to AMD Ground Support

His marks were lowered considerably and he was being threatened with early dismissal from the US Navy, had this happened his entire Navy career would have been in vain, down the drain, and he would have lost all medical and retirement benefits.

They made him sweat for nearly a month. He could not get an audience with the Captain to even discuss the situation. In his desperation he eventually decided to go back to Squadron 12 and have a talk with Commodore McGuiness. 

Chuck explained the situation to him, and the Commodore advised him to go back to the Office of the Captain and formally request a Court Marshall.  "Chief Haven, you write on the request that I will represent you and the Admiral will assist me, and I will also personally give him a call."

Chuck went back out to Boca Chica Naval Air and did exactly that. Just as suddenly as his marks had been lowered they were raised back up to 4.0 across the board and everything was squashed. No more threats of early dismissal. Had it not been for his previous outstanding record, and his always doing everything by the book it would have been a much different ending of this story. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What Is A Soldier

James Robert Adams
Military Photo
You have chosen to measure your life in moments,
For soldiers live only for today!
Tomorrow doesn't come for the soldier,
Death is only one step away.

You will train, you will drill,
You will fight and you will die
Yet perhaps someday you will pause
And you will wonder why.

Now the answer to this question
Is very hard to find,
For it’s little more than experiences,
Folded away in your mind.

It’s all the times you've stood and watched,
The sun slip from your sight,
Across those rows of crosses,
That stand so straight and white.

It’s all the times you've dreamed alone
And all the dreams you've shared
With that someone special,
The girl who really cared.

A Photo of His Medals
It’s standing in your uniform
Your mother by your side,
Knowing her eyes are filled with tears
Because her heart is filled with pride.

It’s those bright summer days of childhood
It’s those solemn winter days of age,
It’s all the blues of springtime,
It’s all the falls of beige.

This poem was written by my first cousin, James Robert Adams born June 6, 1942.  His name is on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D. C.  He graduated from West Point on June 07, 1967.  He was a 2nd LT. and commenced his tour of duty in Vietnam February 14, 1968 was KIA March 20, 1968 and he is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Because of how this poem is worded I think he might have written it sometime between graduation and shipping out to Vietnam.  His mother would have been at his side after the graduation ceremony with tears of pride in her eyes.

At what point he had visited Arlington National Cemetery, I have no clue unless it was when he visited my brother Neal occasionally who lived in Washington D C at that time.

Before he shipped out to Vietnam he visited my brother one last time and left a big trunk with him; to keep for him. Sometime after my brother moved to Key West, and it was several years after Jim was KIA, he opened the trunk and this poem was among the contents.

I sometimes wonder if my cousin Jim had a premonition of his death when he visited Arlington and that resulted in his writing this poem. There were several other poems in the contents of the trunk, but this was the only one that mentioned the rows of crosses in Arlington; which is now his earthly resting place.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bully Netting in Key West

Bully Net
With Aluminium Pole
I will explain to the best of my ability for those who do not know what this means because many will not know if I don’t explain. It is a type of dip net used to catch Florida Lobster. Sometimes called spiny lobster and some call them longusta or just gusters.

Ours was homemade with a wooden pole, used also just to pole the boat around. Picture it as being L shaped.When you saw a lobster you turned the pole up. Lines attached and you held the line and the bag upside down.

Place the bail over the lobster, and drop the bag while still holding the line. The lobster will always swim upwards and backwards. Then lift the pole up and the lobster is bagged. Then release the lobster into the live well.

Chuck and I loved to go bully netting on every slick calm night that we possibly could. Our two children were quite young and we made a comfortable bed for them under the bow cap. They slept while we poled around and caught lobsters. If there was the slightest ripple on the water you could not see them well enough to catch them.

Florida Lobster
Also Called Bugs
We kept plenty in our freezer, at that time there was no limit; except on the size of the lobster and we had a gadget to measure when we caught one. 

We didn't get a lot of slick calm nights in Key West so we had to take advantage of the ones that we did get. 

However over the years our children Stormy and Bo did a lot of sleeping under the bow cap of our boat.

We lived in Sigsbee Park Naval Housing with a canal behind our house that led out to open water. The nearest flats were the flats around Fleming Key and around the old Sea Drone that the Sea Planes had used as a landing strip when there had been an active Sea Plane Base here during WWII.

I always worked the spot light and Chuck worked the bully net. When I spotted a lobster; their eyes reflect red when the light shines in them, I could work it around in almost any direction I wanted it to go in. 

They did not like the light, they would try to ease around and crawl backwards to get out and stay out of it, so they were easy to steer as long as you didn't make a sudden move or noise.

One night when we were out we spotted one that didn't want to do what I tried to get it to do. It kept backing away, but we kept working it. Finally it decided to bolt and try to get away from the light.

It bolted right up onto the beach, and Chuck pushed the boat on up to the beach and stepped out and picked it up it was a really big one, the tail weighed about a pound. The tail is the only part we ate, these kind have no claws, they have antennae. We had lobster quite often and it was a great supplement to our food supply.

I prepared it in all kinds of ways. Sometimes I split the back hull and removed the meat, cut it in strips. Then dipped it in a tempura batter and fried it. Often I made a salad with it, this was Chuck’s favorite way to eat it, other times I just broiled it. Once in awhile I made a lobster thermidor.

All the years we lived there this was legal, and we could go almost anywhere. Today there are restrictions and some areas are closed completely. Like many things of the sea, the industry was greatly over-fished and things had to change. The most we ever caught in one night was five dozen. Most nights it would just be two or three dozen.

If we didn't find them crawling on the flats near the Sea Drone and Fleming Key we would venture out to other flats around what we called Christmas Tree Island, the island was built from spoil when the Navy dredged the channels deeper for the bigger boats. It's official name is Wisteria Island.

Wisteria or Christmas Tree Island

It was just a vacant island in those days; except for quite a few old wrecked boats and a lot of Australian Pine Trees, which is how it came to be called Christmas Tree Island.

Heart Shaped Sea Bean
These Came From the Rain-forest in
the Amazon
There was also another little Island near it, I don't remember its name, both were two of my favorite places to collect shells and sea beans.

These sea beans came from various plants in the rain forest in the amazon and various other places and floated in on the tides and wash ashore on our beaches all around Florida. I had quite a collection of sea beans and shells.

So if there isn't a lot of lobster crawling you just enjoy the wonderful display of nature.You see a lot of sea creatures at night that you don’t see during the day.  

Backside of Christmas Tree Island
Horse Conch
Pronounced Conk
One of the nights when we had gone out to Christmas Tree Island we found one of the largest horse conch shells either of us had ever seen on the backside of the Island. 

Chuck was able to dip it up with the net and I kept that shell for many years.

We would see all kinds of tropical fish as well as very large fish such as Red Snapper, Yellowtail Snapper and numerous others. The water is so clear you can easily see the bottom in 20 to 30 feet of water. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Transferred To Shore Duty

Boca Chica Naval Air Station

Chuck was transferred from The USS Sea Cat SS 399 May 4, 1964 to Shore Duty at Boca Chica Naval Air Station. On his arrival to duty at the Naval Air Station they put him in charge of repairs to some Wells Air Start engines that were located at the very end of the runway, on the very backside of the Base.

They gave him ear plugs to wear because this was where the Jets taking flight cut on their after-burner which produced a very loud boom. He was there until he got those diesels rebuilt, and then he was attached to Fleming Key also a part of US Naval Air which was a different location, and it was a shallow water rescue service.

Fleming Key Bridge

He was in charge of maintaining all boats and engines there. We were still living in base housing in Sigsbee Park at that time.  It was a lot closer for him to get to work by water or on land, than going out to Boca Chica.

Fleming Key was accessed by a bridge from Trumbo point. During WWII Trumbo Point had been a Seaplane base, the area where the Seaplanes landed and took off was called the Sea Drone and this is where Chuck and Neiderfer, one of the guys stationed at Fleming Key used to hoop net for Florida Lobster at night. 
Trumbo Point

Another one of the the guys named Leroy Goforth also ran a boat and netted for lobster, they all had a lot of fun doing this and we had a lot of pleasure eating their catch, and there was extra money in our pockets.

For those of you who don’t know what a hoop net is I will explain as best I can. It is a big metal ring about the size of a hula hoop, maybe a little larger; attached to it is another net and has a larger hoop ring that bags. When the net is put overboard the bait is attached to the center of the bottom of the larger bag.

Hoop Net

When you pull the net up with the rope attached to the hoop the bag comes up and forms sides all around and you catch whatever is in the bag. They would run their nets about every hour till midnight.

They caught a lot of legal size lobster and sold it to Felton’s A& B Fish House, they also caught a lot of stone crabs, but at that time the Fish House was not buying any stone crabs.

So on the weekends we would boil the crab claws in a wash tub, and everyone stationed on Fleming Key and their families would have a feast, the excess stone crab catch was always released and they only took one claw!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Boat on Sea Duty

USS Sea Cat SS 399 
Chuck was transferred from the USS Grenadier SS 525 on October 21,1963 to the USS Sea Cat SS 399 and served on her till May 4, 1964.

I was just out of the hospital and in the full metal body brace and could only be up for 15 minutes twice a day, the rest of the time I was flat of my back.
USS Sea Cat Insignia Patch
The Boat was getting ready for a trip, I’m pretty sure it was another Mediterranean trip, but it could have been the North Atlantic. Chuck put in a request for a hardship leave.
The Captain (Skipper) said, "I'm sorry Chief Haven, but I really need to have you aboard on this trip." 

Chuck said, "Sir, you have enough spare parts aboard to rebuild those engines from the floor up, and every Engineman in this department is fully trained and competent to handle the job, if it's needed."
Skipper still said, "No,  I'm sorry Chief Haven I absolutely have to have you on this trip I just can’t leave you behind. 
Chuck explained the situation again and said, "Sir I will not leave my wife and children in this condition, and I can’t afford to pay to have someone take care of them for me while we're gone, and I will not make this trip." 

Silver Dolphins
Worn by Enlisted Men
He unpinned his Dolphins from his chest and threw them in the garbage can and said, "I have been riding these Boats for seventeen and a half years, and I have never asked for anything. 

Riding Boats is volunteer service and I disqualify myself as of now, I am no longer a submarine sailor."
The Skipper said, "No, no you can’t do this; you are too good a submarine sailor to just throw it away." He reached in and picked up Chuck’s Dolphins and tried to give them back to him, but Chuck refused.
The Skipper called Commodore McGuiness up in the Squadron and explained the situation to him and he said, "Bring him up here to see me, if he will come."
They went up to see the Commodore and he asked Chuck to tell him his side of the story, and Chuck did. When he finished the Commodore said to him, "I have a little project in mind that I’ve been thinking about for awhile now." He told Chuck what he had on his mind and asked him if he thought he could handle the job and Chuck said, "Yes Sir."

So the School for the Boats was created in the Squadron and Chuck was placed in charge of getting it up and going. The Commodore handed him his Dolphins and said "Put these back on Chief, we'll transfer you to another Boat, and  you can ride her four hours a month in order to still draw your hazardous duty pay."

The school worked out well, guys could qualify to ride submarines a lot quicker if they went through the School for the Boats. In order to qualify they have to cross train and learn at least the basics of every job on the Boat. As soon as they qualify they are awarded their Dolphins.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Inspection Hat

Another Engineman on the USS Grenadier SS 525 that we were close with was Gene Courmier.  We always called him Little John because he was huge.  I still keep in touch with him and his present wife Martha.

At the time we were stationed with him he was married to Shirley. One of the stories I remember about them, they had a party at their house one night at Big Coppitt Key. I know that Hoffman and Barron were there, they were also Enginemen.

Another guy who was there, and I don’t recall his name, but he had a prize winning handlebar mustache. He kept it trimmed and waxed and in great shape, and he was of course quite proud of it.

He got pretty drunk and passed out, and while he was passed out the other guys decided to shave half of his mustache off. Submarine sailors do this sort of things to each other and to them it was great fun.

USS Grenadier SS 525 in Toulon, France
photo by Alan Shapiro

In April of 1962 the Boat made a trip to the Mediterranean Sea. One of the ports they stopped in was Toulon, France. I am not quite sure if the photo above was the April 1962 trip or a later one.  A bunch of the guys from the engine rooms went over on the beach together. 

Dixie Cup Hat
Little John couldn't find a hat to wear so he borrowed one from Hoffman, and it just happened to be Hoffman’s inspection hat. 

They partied hardy and were sitting on the deck of a bar they were at the time, with their feet dangling over the railing on the side of a hill.

Hoffman having had too much wine; got sick and had to barf  He didn't want to barf over the side because people were walking down below. So he laughed and snatched the hat off Little Johns head and barffed in it.

He laughed a deep belly laugh and said, “Hey old buddy, I just puked in your hat.” Little John said, “That’s okay Hoffman it was your inspection hat.” Then Little John laughed and laughed. Crazy guys!

And then there was Ding Dong Bell, who missed the Boat one morning. They were having quarters on deck, looked up, and behold, here comes Ding Dong behind a boat on water skies. He is dressed in his uniform.

1940 Cadillac Limousine
Ding Dong also had a really nice old car I don’t remember what kind it was, but the guys always teased him about his Al Capone car. I am not quite sure if his car was a Cadillac or not but this car looks  a lot like the one he had.